Note: The DOT withdrew the initial filing within a couple hours of publication. Presumably it will return in the normal Federal Register version rather than a preliminary copy in the near future. The originally published doc is archived here.
Original story continues below.
One lucky airline will soon have access to 16 peak evening runway movement slots at Newark International Airport. The US Department of Transportation, as encouraged by a recent federal court ruling, will reallocate the slots previously held by Southwest Airlines and abandoned in late 2019.
[T]he Department tentatively believes that continuing to limit eligibility to LCC or ULCC carriers would best serve the public interest by providing the maximum level of competition with the available public assets.
Based on a preliminary filing the slots could be reallocated as soon as the Winter 2021/2022 season, which begins 31 October 2021. The DOT previously declined to reissue the slots, in an effort to reduce airport congestion during the peak 2p-10p window. A successful lawsuit by Spirit Airlines forced this move.
Putting the slots back into service is estimated by the FAA to contribute 1.2 minutes of average delay to flights throughout the day. This is offset, however, by an estimated $15-36 average decrease in one-way fares with the introduction of a competitor in a market. As explained in the filing:
These potential savings to consumers are important objectives of the President’s Executive Order on competition, particularly in a concentrated market. There are many benefits of competition, including lower fares, more throughput, higher utilization of scarce assets, more opportunities to develop flexible or common use airport facilities, and reduced opportunities for exclusionary behavior such as “babysitting.” That will not change unless we introduce the LCC services and at the same time, seek necessary adjustments by incumbent carriers to mitigate the potential delays. The Department believes that the benefits of lower fares significantly outweigh the impacts of additional delays
In order to ensure the most efficient use of the slot and the greatest competitive impact, the Agency proposes to assign the slots to a single carrier.
The recipient airline will be evaluated on four key factors:
- Business model and product offering that allow the carrier to effectively compete, including the extent to which offering low fares to large numbers of travelers is core to its business proposition across markets;
- Record of entering and effectively competing in markets like those served by dominant carrier(s) at Newark;
- Staying power and track record in highly competitive markets, especially vis-à-vis the specific hub carrier and at network carrier hubs and focus cities where the competitive responses from incumbent airlines to new entry by price competitors may be particularly aggressive; and
- Ability to appeal to a broad cross section of passengers by offering a competitive schedule with (at least) minimum levels of daily and weekly frequency appropriate for the market(s) at issue, along with reasonably competitive onboard products and services and the ability to deliver them to customers consistently over time.
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